Population of Karuizawa just exceeded 20,000 this year. Among them, about 250 are registered foreign residents (source: Karuizawa town administration 2014 statistics). It may look small in number, but their presence on international atmosphere of the town is significant. It should be a heritage since when a Canadian missionary found this area and later John Lennon and his family spent their summer days here.
International Association of Karuizawa (IAK) is a center of such international cultural exchange in the town. It was established in 2012 and provides many occasions for socializing, music, sports, arts etc. for its members to enjoy inter-culture communications. Visit its Facebook page to feel its atmosphere. Similar activities may be there in a city region like Tokyo, too, but what is unique in Karuizawa is, I think, that people here are very open and active in building friendship. It may be because we have relaxing and slow-life atmosphere of a resort town, but additionally because such entertainment facilities as good food, drink, sports, music, arts places, nature, and residences are located in this relatively small area with nice balance. It must not be something which you can experience in a city area.
Kevin's Bar is my another recommendation to feel international atmosphere in a casual manner. Kevin moved from Tokyo and opened his bar in front of the Karuizawa station in 2013. By then, night scene in Karuizawa station vicinity was not so lively but he then brought an open socialization place in this area with western style standing wine bar. People gather every night (even during winter) here to enjoy chatting and drinking.
Come and meet international people and culture, and enjoy the town.
Karuizawa is one of the rare habitats of Japanese Squirrel. We sometimes see them in forest areas. As the town develops and the fragmentation of the forest goes forward, its population is observed to be decreasing in recent years.
Some people in the town are very active to protect the Japanese Squirrel. Kazusa Nakamaru, a professional writer in the town, is one of them. She had been working in Tokyo for long time. She moved to Karuizawa in 2012, when she was fascinated by squirrels in the forest near her house, and began photographing them.
She published a photo and essay book "Mellow, the Japanese Squirrel" in August 2014. Since then, she launched a civil activity "Mellow, the Japanese Squirrel, the project from Karuizawa" to protect Japanese Squirrel in the town. The project raises a fund to protect the town forest through her educational seminars and photo exhibitions events in various cities in Japan.
When you see squirrels in town, please remember environmental situations being faced by them, and people who pay significant effort to protect them.
”Mellow, the Japanese Squirrel” project website